You may not know who Tracey Crouch is, but she is the first person to do something that is a sign of our times. She is the world’s first Minister for Loneliness. According to a recent report by the Jo Cox Foundation, more than 9 million people in Britain (14% of the population) often or always feel lonely, costing U.K. employers up to $3.5 billion annually.
Churches can help address this issue of loneliness that is quickly becoming a public health concern for many countries around the world. Whether meeting in a physical building or online, churches strive to nurture a strong community that helps each member grow and thrive.
Here are a few ideas to help your community stay connected and strong:
- Make your vision visible.
Though churches share the same common beliefs when it comes to the gospel, every congregation has a unique identity that can be expressed in a vision statement. Maybe it’s known for its active involvement with the poor. Or a desire to create amazing children’s programs to disciple the next generation. Whatever it may be, communicate it clearly and often. Make sure it’s visible at the beginning or at the end of your worship stream. Print it on weekly bulletins and displays in lobby areas.
- Check in with every member regularly.
Clearly, this can’t be done by the pastor alone, so develop a system to ensure that each member is part of a “contact tree”. Similar to an emergency phone tree, key volunteers are placed at “nodes” to reach out to the “branches” attached to them. Those people at “branches” are also “nodes” that will reach out to other people attached to them. This can be a quick text or email to see how everyone is doing. If you have time, create a personal video message of encouragement to each person as often as possible. The great thing about this system is that no one is left out or falls through the cracks.
- Have a regular, central meeting place.
In a physical building, this is much easier to pull off. In a virtual world, use an online tool like Sunergo Connect as a central hub for your people to meet. You can create small groups, post chats, share resources, show virtual meeting IDs, and create schedules—all in one place. Not only is it easier for leaders to communicate and share information, but members know where to go to “hang” out and to find everything they need to be active participants. The possibilities are numerous: Sunday school classes, small Bible study groups, membership classes, worship team meetings, volunteer training, and more.
- Create fun, interactive experiences.
We all know how successful the Ice Bucket Challenge was for ALS. Why not create one for your church? Make a video of yourself reciting a memory verse from a sermon series or Bible study. At the end, name two different people and challenge them to recite the same verse. They will in turn nominate the next participants to continue the thread until most of the church has taken part. Put a creative twist on the challenge by reciting the verse with a mouthful of saltine crackers or while impersonating a famous person. Share these videos with the whole congregation to promote a sense of community.
- Create a safe place.
Help people feel safe by clearly explaining your community’s guidelines regarding confidentiality, especially in a setting where people want to open up and share personal stories. Outline a clear path for members to take if disagreements come up between members to curtail hurtful gossiping and rumours. Being proactive will prevent small issues from growing into damaging problems.
These ideas will help your members feel like they belong. Instead of being sideline spectators, they can become involved participants who help create the unique identity that is your community—whether it be online or in a church building.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and reflects the opinion of the author. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on as professional advice. You should consult appropriate professionals for your specific situation.